- Evan Barrett
Americans for Kashmir Commends US Commission on International Religious Freedom
Updated: May 2, 2020
May 1st 2020
Americans for Kashmir commends USCIRF designation of India as a CPC and its specific section on Kashmir in its annual report.
In its newly released annual report, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) rated India a “country of particular concern” or “CPC.” This designation recognizes that the country has “tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.” Americans for Kashmir (A4K) wholeheartedly applauds USCIRF for its moral consistency in identifying violators of religious liberty, even when perpetrated by a would-be ally of the United States. Furthermore, Americans for Kashmir encourages the US State Department to show similar bravery and act on USCIRF’s recommendations, which include officially embracing the CPC designation, enhancing engagement between the US Embassy and religious minority communities, and allocating funding to civil society groups that monitor violations of religious freedom.
In particular, A4K welcomes USCIRF’s decision to include a specific section on Kashmir for the first time, and for noting the extreme constraints on religious expression in the region. In Kashmir, the greater lockdown that began in August with the abrogation of Article 370 has involved the arrest of prominent religious leaders and a ban on religious gatherings. As COVID-19 rips through the region, the Indian government has sought to use the guise of the pandemic to further crack down on religious freedoms even as its detention of political prisoners and restriction of communications continue.
As the report notes: “In August 2019, the government stripped Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy and imposed security measures, including restricting freedom of movement and assembly, cutting Internet and phone access, and arresting Kashmiri leaders, including religious leaders. The restrictions on movement and assembly limited the ability to attend prayers and religious ceremonies. USCIRF also received several reports of mosques being closed, imams and Muslim leaders arrested and detained, and threats and violence by extremist groups.” Both regular religious service and important holiday celebrations have been disrupted with the Khanqah-e-Moula mosque closed for congregational prayers for the first time in 600 years. Intimidation of clerics to censor their sermons also remains a concern.
The CPC designation is a vital tool in highlighting a dramatic downturn in religious freedom under Prime Minister Modi’s administration. In addition to its section on Kashmir, USCIRF’s report identifies a number of disturbing trends targeting religious minorities including the passage of troubling legislation. The combination of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) leave India’s 200 million Muslims vulnerable to being declared noncitizens and subject to detention or deportation. India has also instituted legislative pretexts targeting Christian, Muslim, and Dalit Indians, including anti-conversion laws and the criminalization of cow slaughter.
Americans for Kashmir commends USCIRF for holding the Indian government accountable for the rise in violence against religious minorities, and for highlighting the ongoing oppressive conditions faced by Kashmiris. USCIRF has shown leadership by identifying concrete actions that Congress and the Trump Administration must take to end India’s democratic backsliding and ensure the protection of basic rights for all communities across the region. A4K urges members of Congress and the President to follow suit and act immediately on these recommendations.